Anchor text is the visible text - words, numbers, punctuation marks and symbols - of a link that takes visitors to the linked web page when clicked. Whether it's a backlink or internal link, all links have anchor text. When a visitor clicks any part of this text, his or her web browser will redirect them to the linked page or open a new window or tab in which it displays.
The primary purpose of anchor text is to help visitors understand what a linked page is about without visiting it. When a visitor encounters a link, he or she will probably look at the anchor text, as well as the context in which the link is used, to determine if they should click it. Therefore, using relevant anchor text drives targeted traffic and improves the user experience.
Search engines like Google and Bing also look at anchor text as part of their search ranking algorithm. When crawling the web, search engines analyze anchor text to determine which keywords frequently appear when linking to a particular page. If a page has several high-quality backlinks featuring a specific keyword as the anchor text, search engines may rank it higher for that keyword. Think of a backlink as a thumbs up for your website, someone saying "this website has great content. You should check it out!". The more websites that are telling the search engines they like your website the better it is for yours.
Hyperlinks must follow a specific HTML format that includes the HTTP or HTTPS prefix, followed by the linked page's static web address. When creating anchor text, however, you are given more freedom over the format. Here are some of the most common types of anchor text:
When creating links, use anchor text that's relevant to the linked page. The anchor text should describe, to some degree, what the page is about so that users can decide if it's worth visiting. It's not uncommon for webmasters to use irrelevant anchor text, hoping that it will increase their search rankings for the keyword. Unfortunately, this promotes a poor user experience while offering little or no SEO value in return.
With Google's Penguin 4.0 algorithm update in effect, you should use exact match and partial match keyword anchor text sparingly to avoid triggering a search ranking penalty. Like the original Penguin 1.0 update, Penguin 4.0 is designed to combat black-hat and other manipulative backlink-building strategies. Google's algorithm also targets overuse of keyword-rich anchor text. If your backlink portfolio consists primary of exact match and partial match keyword anchor text, Google may assume that you are trying to manipulate your website's search rankings, so it penalizes your site by lowering its search rankings.
Rather than focusing your backlink-building efforts on exact match and partial match keyword anchor text, consider using more naked URL and branded anchor text. Since they don't contain target keywords, they look more natural to search engines and, therefore, are less likely to trigger a search ranking penalty. A good rule is to use either a naked URL or branded anchor text for at least half of all your website's backlinks. For internal links, keyword-rich anchor text is perfectly fine as long as it's relevant to the linked page. It's the anchor text for backlinks with which you should proceed with caution.
One of the best ways to create a diverse link profile is by letting other people build it for you. They'll all do it in their own way. So, how do you get other people to link to your website? Build great content. Building high-quality content pages will encourage others to link to your resource. We did a great case study on how to build links by building statistics pages. We've received thousands of links from building just one great page.
Web pages are dynamic and often feature new or modified content. When a web page changes, however, the anchor text of any links pointing to that page may also require updating. During a recent Webmaster Hangout sessions, John Mueller, Google's senior webmaster trends analyst, encouraged webmasters to update their anchor text to reflect more closely the content of the linked page.
Building links with SEO-friendly anchor text is just one step to achieving higher search rankings. It's also crucial that you create high-quality content on your website. With the right link-building and content creation strategy, though, you'll dominate Google's and Bing's search results.